In February 2021 the Secretary of State for Health and Care commissioned our director - Professor Ben Goldacre - to lead an independent review into the use of NHS data for research and analysis. Over the past year Ben and our policy lead Jess, with help from the wider team as well as civil servants in DHSC and the NHS Transformation Directorate, have conducted interviews with over 300 individuals, held 8 open focus groups, reviewed over 100 written submissions, and conducted extensive desk research, to reach the conclusions that were published yesterday in the Goldacre Review “Better, broader, safer, using health data for research and analysis."

The Review, which is available in both HTML and pdf, and at three different levels of detail (executive summary, summary, and full review) sets out 185 detailed recommendations to Government in seven key areas: NHS service analytics, Open Working, Privacy and Security, Trusted Research Environments, Information Governance and PPIE, Data Curation, and Strategy. Combined these recommendations set out how the Government can:

  • Increase data transparency by adopting Trusted Research Environments (TREs) as secure virtual spaces for verified researchers to access health data which will reduce the risk of data breaches
  • Improve opportunities for data analysts within the NHS by modernising their job and career development, including improving salaries, training, structure, community and best practice
  • Encourage open working for all NHS data analysis, for instance through the use of a shared library of data analysis tools, reducing duplication and increasing consistency of results.

Noting that the primary recommendation - to adopt TRES as the main mechanism for accessing and analysing NHS data - has already been accepted by the Government, reflected in a recent investment of £200million in the development of TREs, Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid, thanked Ben and said:

“Countless lives have been saved through the pandemic after health data enabled ground-breaking research.

“As we move forwards, millions of patients could benefit from the more efficient use of health data, through boosting innovation and ensuring the NHS can continue to offer cutting-edge care, saving lives.

[……]this work, alongside our upcoming data strategy, will help to transform the NHS on our road to recovery”

As referenced by the Secretary of State, the full response is expected in the forthcoming data strategy. We are looking forward to reading the response, and to helping the Government act on the recommendations, and, in so doing, helping the NHS to finally realise the full value of its 73 years of data.

You can read the full Review here.